July 27, 2018 | Fernando Sandoval
MADEIRA BEACH, FLORIDA— With data breaches, hacks and misuse of data, it is becoming increasingly important to protect your privacy and personal information online. But did you know that searching for a home to buy or looking to sell a home can put your privacy and personal information at risk?

To help you understand the risks and help you protect your privacy we put together this list of 6 ways to keep your personal information safe.

#1 Open Houses

You are driving around on a weekend and see an “Open House” sign. You are curious, and you’ve decided to see what’s out there in the market or maybe it’s early in the home buying process for you. Visiting several open houses on a weekend sounds like a great idea, but is it?

“Sellers and buyers believe that Realtors hold open houses to sell that particular home but nothing could be further from the truth” says Julie Sandoval, a 4 year veteran in the Real Estate Sales business. “only 1% of homes ever sell at an open house…Realtors hold open houses for one reason only: to capture your personal information and find unrepresented home buyers.”

Every open house will have a sign-in sheet which will ask for your name, phone number and / or email address in order to view the home. The Realtor holding the open house will use whatever information you give them to follow up, call you, email you, find you on social media and try to get you to use them to buy your next home.

That’s OK that they are offering to help but If you visit a half a dozen open houses on a weekend you just gave six agents your personal information and practically begged them to call, text, email or stalk you on social media.

“People often lie on the sign-in sheets but most of the time with only fractional information, I’m able to find them on social media or have some means of communicating with them” says Fernando Sandoval with REMAX. “If the buyer wants to know about zero down, the down payment assistance program, lease to own, 1% cash back or want to download our search app, it requires they give up their personal information.

How do you avoid this exposure risk?

Hire your Real Estate agent FIRST. It’ free for you the buyer. When you HIRE US to be your agent, we give you lists of open houses to go see, access to all our resources and you only share your information with us, which we keep safe and never sell to another party. We even have specially made business cards that say “for any questions regarding my Real Estate needs please contact Fernando and Julie Sandoval at REMAX” you simply hand this card to the Realtor holding the open house and you do not have to give them any personal information and, since you come to them properly represented, they will not call you, bug you or stalk you. You can even tell them your name is Bond…James Bond. That’s one way we keep you safe.

#2 Social Media

It’s too tempting to put a blast out on social media letting people know about your intention to buy a home. However, most individuals with an established social media account know at least 6 people in the Real Estate business, especially in Florida. Each one of your friends probably know another 6 each and they will post, comment and tag agents to try to “help” you. This can create a frenzy of agents using comments or Facebook messenger to reach out to you to offer their services. Someone we know had to delete their Facebook post because of how crazy competitive the responses became.

Why not Hire your Realtor first? If you leave it to a random Facebook post you might end up with a weak, bad or inexperienced agent. Spend a little time doing research on possible agents you might hire. Check out their reviews, use Yelp or goggle maps to find a well rated agent and interview at least 3 agents first. If you want to now what questions to ask, see our February 9thblog “10 questions to ask your agent”

# 3 Real Estate Search sites

“It’s FREE to search on our web site” most web sites say and it's true that they let you browse for free. Including our own www.stpetecommunity.comthe advantage to searching on our web site is the accuracy of the information which is updated live every 15 minutes. Other web sites like Zillow, Trulia, etc. may be showing you outdated listings. The information can be up to two weeks old and perhaps listings that are not even for sale such as their “foreclosure listings”

Let’s say you find a home you think is interesting in one of those web sites, what happens when you click on “request more information”?

Clicking the “request more information button” consents to Zillow or Trulia to sell your personal information to agents willing to pay for it, up to three “premier” agents for each time you click on the button, you can see how one evening of looking at homes online you might click that button 10 times, and Zillow sells that information from anywhere from $55 to $400 per agent per click. You can browse listings, click buttons and sip your Vodka Tonic and not even realize that you are giving your personal information to up to 30 different Real Estate Agents. Zillow then makes from $1,650 up to twelve thousand dollars from selling your personal information in just that one session. All these agents will call, text, email, send you videos and stalk you on social media. And Zillow isn’t even going to buy you your next Vodka Tonic.

On our web site at www.stpetecommunity.comwe NEVER sell your personal information and you can request more information on any property and as many properties as you want and your personal information just stays between us.

#4 Signs posted on homes for sale

You see a beautiful home, you see a “For Sale” sign. You call the listing agent to ask for more information. Your information is safe, right? Nope, many agents leave the signs up until well after the property is pending and off the market. During the 45-60 days that the property is under contract and transferring ownership via the escrow process, agents allow people to call on the sign and collect as much personal information on the caller as they possibly can.

You can avoid this risk by simply writing down the address and contacting the agent you already hired and asking him or her to look up that address and get the information to you, nice and private. Our Homesnap search app www.homesnap.com/fernando-sandoval allows you to view photos and details on any property anywhere in the United States without giving out your personal information to any slick-willie listing agent. Besides, the listing agent works for the seller, who’s working for you?

#5 For Sale by Owner

OK sellers, here’s your turn. You want to save the commission, you know your house better than anyone else, you want to sell it yourself. We get it. Putting a home on a web site and / or a sign on the yard that says “For Sale By Owner” has its own risks. With your phone number on the sign or the ad, the address of the property and quick look at the PCPAO.org web site for all the public tax records and now we know your first and last name and a ton of other information about you.

You are toast.

You might as well hire trucks with search lights and put a huge neon sign on the top of your house that says “Hey, I want to sell my house, I don’t have and agent and I want all 7,250 Realtors in Pinellas County to call me and try to convince me to hire them to sell my home”

That’s a headache you don’t need. How can you avoid this? Find your agent first, check the reviews and get a good one to represent you. Avoid the for sale by owner temptation. Are you seeing a pattern yet? We hope so.

#6 “OK Google” or “Hey Siri” Searches

If you are signed in to Facebook or google and you do a search for “Homes under $200k in Seminole, Florida” you will get home listings on your phone and likely land on a web site that collects your personal information. Do that several times and they’ve got you. You will start seeing targeted ads, spam email and mysterious phone calls and text messages with some weirdo on a video.

Certain apps you download ask for access to your accounts and contacts. One customer of ours started getting strange phone calls and emails shortly after downloading an app offered for “free” when she wanted to know what her home was worth.

Her personal information: Sold to the highest bidders.

How do you avoid this?  Your search and online behavior is analyzed by the likes of Facebook and google, tracked by your phone and stolen by some "free" apps...this information is used to target ads to you once the algorithms learn you are in the market to buy or sell. Google and Facebook make fortunes from selling targeted ads to Real Estate professionals looking for their next deal.

Call us if you want to find homes in any area for any price, any time or use our safe, secure web site for your searches.

Hey, It’s mobile friendly!

In conclusion, don’t fall into these traps. They are all attractive and are made to seem easy and private, but they are far from.

Consult with us first if you or anyone you know has a Real Estate need. We are experts in our field and we will keep you and your personal information safe.

Fernando Sandoval and the rest of The Saltwater Ventures Team at RE/MAX All Star are always available to answer your questions in English or Español. Text or call 727.344.9139 or send us an email by filling out the contact us form on our website. We look forward to working with you.

Author: Capt. Fernando Sandoval

© Copyright 2018, All Rights Reserved

About Us:

Capt. Fernando Sandoval has been buying and selling Real Estate professionally since 2008 and as of this writing holds a Florida Real Estate License. His broker is RE/MAX All Star.
The Saltwater Ventures team at RE/MAX All Star is always available to answer your questions in English or Español. Text or call 727-344-9139 or send us an email.
Do you have feedback or something to add to this article? Send us an email and we may feature your comments in a future article. Thanks for reading to the end!

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Six Real Estate Pit falls that put your personal information at risk


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